Thoughts on new-look lineup, De Aza, Collins

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[Newsday]

The Mets have won two in a row after a four game losing streak had them losing two of three to the Phillies and Marlins. After a 2-1 win on Wednesday, largely fueled by strong pitching performances, the Mets broke out offensively with a 6-5 victory last night. While they did hit 4 home runs (by Conforto, De Aza, Cespedes, and a right-handed Walker), they were 0/10 with runners in scoring position. Not helping matters, the Mets had two baserunners thrown out at the plate with no one out. While the lack of production with RISP is a bit concerning, it should come with the increased offense (14 hits last night).

After a fifth straight game of offensive ineptitude in the team’s 2-1 win on Wednesday, Terry Collins shook up the lineup by batting Michael Conforto 3rd. The lineup against right-handers now figures to look like this:

Granderson, Wright, Conforto, Cespedes, Duda, Walker, Cabrera, d’Arnaud

There’s a lot to like about this new lineup – the top 6 can probably be rearranged in any number of ways, and a 7/8 of Cabrera and d’Arnaud is likely the envy of many National League teams. It also gets Conforto more plate appearances, and possibly more to hit in front of Cespedes. It will certainly be interesting to see how Collins shuffles the lineup against lefties – one presumes Lagares and Flores will start regularly against lefties, but who they will play for remains to be seen. My suggestion is as follows:

Lagares, Granderson, Wright, Cespedes, d’Arnaud, Walker/Duda, Flores, Cabrera

…or…

Lagares, Wright, Cespedes, d’Arnaud, Walker/Duda, Flores, Cabrera, Conforto

Alejandro De Aza had a fantastic game last night, falling just a triple shy of the cycle (Cespedes did the same). He got thrown out trying to score from first on a Granderson single, but he capped it off his night with a diving catch in left. He may have played himself into today’s game. I imagine Collins may wish to give Granderson a day off, allowing De Aza the opportunity to start in right and Lagares in center.

Finally, much attention has been paid to Terry Collins’ decision making of late, especially using Jim Henderson in Wednesday’s 2-1 victory after he had thrown a career high 34 pitches the night before. Using Familia for a third straight game to get a 5-out save was also widely criticized.

Personally, I’m not a huge fan of Collins’ explanations of his decisions, but he often does make the right decision. Jim Henderson was obviously a bad call, but had Addison Reed come in and blown the game, we’d all be asking why Familia wasn’t in for the extended save. An interesting quote from last night suggested that Collins started De Aza because he has good numbers in Cleveland’s ballpark. Terrible reason to start a player, but right player to start nonetheless. It’ll be interesting to see how Collins’ decision-making and explanations progress going forward this season.

 

Game Recap: Mets 3, Royals 4

Sigh.

I think we all had a bad feeling about this one.

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There are some bright sides though. Against my more instinctual pessimism, let’s give optimism a try. Jerry Blevins looked good! And, um, Harvey was solid! Conforto was 2/2 with a double and 2 walks! Bartolo Colon entered the game and struck out a guy!

Unfortunately, the negatives reigned this game. Matt Harvey, though looking very strong at times, was unfortunately more human than the Mets were able to afford. He allowed 8 hits and 4 runs (3 earned) over 5 2/3 innings, striking out 2 and walking 2. Yoenis Cespedes dropped an easy line-drive in left field, helping lead to the first Royals run. By the 6th inning, the Mets were down 4-0, unable to muster anything against an effective but slightly-wild Edinson Volquez.

David Wright looked slow, and came up just shy on a couple of charging plays in the field. In the 9th inning, with the tying run on 3rd base and 1 out, Wright was blown away by sheer velocity from Wade Davis, as he was unable to lift a fly ball to get Alejandro De Aza in from 3rd.

The Mets also left a bunch of runners on – 9 for the team (4 for Asdrubal Cabrera and David Wright, 3 for Travis d’Arnaud). They were 1/10 with runners in scoring position.

Unfortunately, when it came to close calls (including the strike zone and defense in general), they seemed to go the Royals’ way. I’ll let this excerpt from Fangraphs’ Opening Night Live Blog illustrate my point:

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Yeah, that’s pretty much how it went.

Juan Lagares missed a shoestring catch at one point, but did make a fantastic throw to try to get Omar Infante at 3rd base (the call stood on replay review – and honestly, it was extraordinarily  too close to call).

But the rallying in the 8th and 9th was certainly a positive sign, even if it came up just short. Replay this game in May or June of last season, and the Mets lose 4-0 as Volquez no-hits them while walking 6.

In the 8th, a single by Juan Lagares and walks by Curtis Grandereson and Yoenis Cespedes loaded the bases with 1 out for Lucas Duda, who was the tying run at the plate. Duda jammed a ball to left field, scoring 2, and Neil Walker brought in a 3rd run on a fielder’s choice grounder. Michael Conforto singled, but Luke Hochevar came in and got Asdrubal Cabrera to strike out with 2 on.

In the 9th, Travis d’Arnaud walked and pinch hitter Alejandro De Aza grounded into a force out. Curtis Granderson singled to center, and De Aza aggressively took 3rd place and slid in safely on a close play. But, Wade Davis struck out David Wright easily, and after a little bit of work struck out Yoenis Cespedes as well.

Say what you will about last night’s game and the Mets’ offensive ineptitude, but it certainly looks like they have the offensive ability not to let any game get away from them. The Mets play the Royals again tomorrow, after an excruciating off day, with Noah Syndergaard opposing former Met Chris Young.

Content Note: 2016 Season

A quick note to any of my readers: unlike the end of last season, I will not be doing previews and recaps for every Mets game. Plenty of others, including Metsblog and Amazin’ Avenue do a fantastic job already, and it becomes a bit tedious. This season, I will focus more on editorial content, including discussing some game reactions, controversies, and other things I feel should be written about.

Once again, I urge all of you to follow We Gotta Believe! on Flipboard. In my Flipboard magazine, I flip interesting Mets-related articles I find across the internet (including my own content here). I have kept up with Flipboard all offseason, and plan to continue to do so this season. For up-to-date news, pregame, and postgame information, that is the place to go!

LGM

View my Flipboard Magazine.

Arbitration Preview

With arbitration decisions upcoming, here is a preview of the arbitration eligible Mets. As a reminder, players are eligible for arbitration if they have more than 3, but less than 6 years of major league service time. Players with more than 2 but less than 3 years of service time are also eligible, provided they are in the top 22% in major league service time for that particular class of players. If a player enters an offseason with more than 6 years of service time and has not already signed a multi-year extension, that payer is eligible to become a free agent (as is the case with Daniel Murphy). If the team and the player cannot agree on a salary, their case is sent to a neutral arbitrator who will decide which of the two cost figures is more reasonable. The team maintains control over all of these players for at least the next full season.

In terms of costs, payers are due raises through arbitration. They cannot be offered less than 80% of their previous season’s salary. Therefore, underperforming and injured players are at significant risk of being non-tendered.

Service time is listed as years.days. Therefore, 3.072 means 3 years, 72 days of service time. 172 days equals a year of service time, despite the fact that a season is usually 182-184 days. Often, teams exploit this to gain an extra year of control over a player (as the Cubs did with Kris Bryant this season, and the Mets did with Ruben Tejada a couple years ago. Notice that Tejada sits at 4.171, or one day short of 5 years). I will also list the projected free agency date (2018 means after the 2018 season), as well as the projected salary, according to MLB Trade Rumors (assuming the player is tendered a contract).

Also of note, Juan Lagares signed a 5 year extension before last season. Therefore, his arbitration years have been bought out and he is not eligible for arbitration.

Here are the Mets’ 8 arbitration eligible players, in order of likelihood they’ll be tendered a contract:

Locks

Matt Harvey (3.072, 2018, $4.7MM)
Lucas Duda (4.137, 2017, $6.8MM)
Jeurys Familia (3.030, 2018, $3.3MM)

The Mets will not let any of these players go, and will probably try to extend at least a couple of them (Duda seems the most likely extension candidate, despite the fact that he rejected a 3/$30MM offer last offseason). Harvey, represented by Scott Boras, seems least likely to sell out his free agency years, but may be open to a 2-3 year extension to buy out multiple arbitration years.

Questionable:

Addison Reed (4.002, 2017, $5.7MM)
Ruben Tejada (4.171, 2017, $2.5MM)
Carlos Torres (3.114, 2018, $800K)
Josh Edgin (3.015, 2018, $600K)

This consists of two categories of players: useful but expensive (Reed, Tejada) and cheap but risky (Torres, Edgin). Reed is the most likely in this group to be tendered a contract after his strong bullpen work after he was acquired from the Diamondbacks. However, he entered his arbitration years as a closer, and therefore is owed considerably more money than relieveres of his type. If the Mets lack the finances to pay him, he will be non-tendered. Tejada is another one that is useful, but it is looking more likely that the Mets will non-tender him and promote Matt Reynolds as the backup middle infielder. $2.5 million is a bit expensive, but options on the free agent market would be similarly priced. It really would be a shame if Tejada’s Mets career ended on a takeout slide by Chase Utley.

Torres struggled last year, but his stamina and versatility could keep him as an attractive bullpen option. If the Mets non-tender him, it will be because they are more comfortable filling the bullpen from within the organization, or from low risk free agents. As was the case with Tejada, $800K seems like market-rate for a player of Torres’s ilk. Josh Edgin, on the other hand, is a lot riskier to keep. Recovering from Tommy John surgery, Edgin would not be ready to return until midseason. That being said, $600K is not a lot to pay for a wild card.

Non-Tender:

Jenrry Mejia (3.085, 2018, $2.6MM)

Though rumors have popped up suggesting the Mets could retain Mejia, I simply can’t see it happening. He would not be eligible to return from his 2nd suspension until late July. If I am correct, I believe that would only put the Mets on the line for $1MM of Mejia’s projected $2.6MM salary. Unfortunately, Mejia has destroyed his reputation and standing in the clubhouse. $1 million for 2 months of Mejia simply may not be worth it, especially when it comes with other baggage. Can you imagine the PR nightmare if Ruben Tejada, postseason rallying cry, is non-tendered for financial reasons but Mejia is retained? Time for the Mets to cut their losses.

Awards, Roster Updates, Notes

After a 2 1/2 week post-World-Series detox, I’m back to report on the offseason. As always, don’t forget to follow me on Flipboard, where I always share up to the minute notes and stories from various publications.

Awards:

Matt Harvey and Yoenis Cespedes were the only Mets to come away with a major award this season, with Cespedes winning the American League Gold Glove award as a left fielder and Harvey winning the NL Comeback Player of the Year award. Curtis Granderson was nominated in right field in the NL, but lost out to Jason Heyward.

For Rookie of the Year, Noah Syndergaard finished 4th in the voting behind Kris Bryant, Matt Duffy, and Jung Ho Kang. Terry Collins finished 3rd in Manager of the Year voting behind Joe Maddon and Mike Matheny. Jacob deGrom finished 7th in Cy Young voting, behind Jake Arrieta, Zack Greinke, Clayton Kershaw, Gerrit Cole, Max Scherzer, and Madison Bumgarner. Yoenis Cespedes finished 13th in the NL MVP vote, while Curtis Granderson finished 18th (Courtesy of a single 7th place vote by Mike Puma of the NY Post).

Roster Updates:

The following players elected free agency:

  • Jerry Blevins
  • Buddy Carlyle
  • Yoenis Cespedes
  • Tyler Clippard
  • Bartolo Colon
  • Kelly Johnson
  • Daniel Murphy
  • Eric O’Flaherty
  • Bobby Parnell
  • Anthony Recker (rejected outright assignment)
  • Wilfredo Tovar (rejected outright assignment)
  • Juan Uribe
  • Eric Young Jr.
  • The following notable minor leaguers elected free agency:

  • Vic Black
  • Dillon Gee
  • Scott Rice
  • Alex Torres
  • The Mets added infielder Ty Kelly on a minor league contract with a spring training invite, while they lost lefty reliever Jack Leathersich (rehabbing from Tommy John surgery) on waivers to the Chicago Cubs. Josh Smoker, left handed reliever from AA, was added to the 40 man roster. The 40 man roster currently sits at 35, not including Kelly (on a minor league contract) and Jenrry Mejia (restricted).

    7 Mets minor leaguers are eligible for the Rule 5 draft this December, and if left off the 40 man roster, can be selected by any major league team. Of the 7, 4 seem likey to be protected on the 40-man roster: outfielder Brandon Nimmo, outfielder Wulimer Becerra, right-handed pitcher Robert Gsellman, and right-handed pitcher Matt Bowman. Shortstop T.J. Rivera, right-handed pitcher Seth Lugo, and first baseman Jayce Boyd are also eligible.

    **UPDATE:

    A few hours after publishing this article, the Mets added 4 minor leaguers to the 40 man roster: Nimmo, Gsellman, Lugo, and right handed pitcher Jeff Walters. Beccera, who arrived alongside Travis d’Arnaud and Noah Syndergaard in the R.A. Dickey trade, is in particular danger of being selected in the Rule 5 draft.

    World Series Game 5 Recap: Royals 7, Mets 2 (12), Royals win 2015 World Series

    The Royals defeated the Mes by a score of 7-2 in 12 innings, capturing the 2015 World Series title. The Mets took a 2-0 lead into the 9th behind a dominant Matt Harvey, but a walk to Lorenzo Cain, a steal of 2nd, and a double by Eric Hosmer put the tying run on 2nd base with no one out. Jeurys Familia got Mike Moustakas to ground out to 1st, advancing Hosmer, and he got Salvador Perez to ground to 3rd base. David Wright looked Hosmer back a few feet to 3rd, but as Wright threw to 1st, Hosmer broke for the plate and scored on Lucas Duda‘s errant throw. The game continued until the 12th, when the Royals turned a bloop single, a steal, another Daniel Murphy error, and a couple of doubles into 5 runs against Addison Reed and Bartolo Colon.

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    The Mets got off to a quick start, with a leadoff home run to center by Curtis Granderson to give the Mets an early 1-0 lead. The Mets held the lead for 5 innings, as Matt Harvey and Edinson Volquez put up dueling zeroes. The Mets tacked on in the 6th, loading the bases with no one out on a walk, a single, and a fielding error by Eric Hosmer. However, the Mets were only able to score one run, on a sacrifice fly by Lucas Duda (one batter after Yoenis Cespedes fouled a ball off his kneecap – Cespedes would leave the game with a knee contusion).

    Harvey pitched through 8 shutout innings, and convinced his manager to send him out for the 9th (at 102 pitches). Harvey walked Lorenzo Cain, Cain stole 2nd, and Eric Hosmer doubled to left, chasing Harvey from the game, with a narrow 2-1 lead intact and the tying run at 2nd with no one out. Jeurys Familia got Mike Moustakas to ground out to first, advancing Hosmer to 3rd. Familia then got Salvador Perez to hit a soft grounder to 3rd, and after David Wright briefly looked Hosmer back to the base, Hosmer broke for home on Wright’s throw to 1st. Lucas Duda then threw the ball to the backstop, which with an accurate throw, would have been a game-ending double play.

    Familia got through the inning, and the bullpens traded zeroes until the 12th. Salvador Perez hit a bloop into right field, just inside the line, and pinch runner Jarrod Dyson promptly stole 2nd. A grounder advanced Dyson to 3rd, and Addison Reed gave up an RBI single to pinch hitter Christian Colon to give the Royals a 3-2 lead. Paulo Orlando then reached on a force attempt error by Daniel Murphy, and Alcides Escobar doubled in another run to make it 4-2 and put runners on 2nd and 3rd. Reed walked Zobrist, before Bartolo Colon entered and served up a bases-clearing double to Lorenzo Cain. Colon got the next two, but the damage was done, and the Royals had a 7-2 lead. Wade Davis entered to close the game for Kansas City, and allowed only a 2-out single to Michael Conforto as Kansas City captured their first World Series title in 30 years.


    Game and series opinions coming, as well as WPA data for this post. For now, sleep.